- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

For Hussein Farrah, the summer of 1996 started with a future rooted in the Los Angeles suburbs: a job with a local council plotting roads, married life interrupted by stints with Marine Reserves buddies.

By October, he had added Aidid to his name and had led thousands of followers in a Somali stadium celebrating the killings three years earlier of 18 American soldiers hunting his father.

Hussein Farrah Aidid is the son of Mohamed Aidid, the warlord who directed the October 1993 uprising against American forces and of a mother who brought him to the United States at age 17.

Today, he is a warlord, in exile in Ethiopia. He hopes to return to his Somali clan and is inviting the United States to come back, too, this time to root out suspected al Qaeda leaders in his homeland.

"I know what the U.S. wants, and I know what these terrorists can do," he said. U.S. officials recently warned Congress that the influence of terrorists may be spreading in Somalia and that Washington cannot ignore them.

The younger Mr. Aidid once wanted much of what America had to offer. He's a naturalized U.S. citizen who reveled in the good life in California and in the days of duty and nights out with Marine buddies.

Those old friends recall an easygoing pal who jokingly called himself "the prince" to remind them of his father's prominent position back in Somalia.

"He would say, 'Gain way, gain way, here comes the prince,'" said Jesse Perez, who served with him in the Marines. "We said, 'Shut up, Farrah.'"

These days, U.S. officials don't quite know what to make of their ex-Marine. They remember his harsh rhetoric at the stadium, when Mr. Aidid had returned to Somalia after his father's death to lay claim to the clan. "A victorious national day for the Somalis," he called the 1993 attack. "A gloomy day for the aggressors."

Despite that, U.S. officials don't think he's a foe. But they're not sure he's a friend. It's a dilemma characteristic of Somalia's chaos. Some of his fellow Marines believe that if it comes down to divided loyalties, the culture of the Corps will transcend that of the clan.

"Once a Marine develops a loyalty to the Corps, it never fades," said Lt. Gen. Robert Johnston, who was Mr. Aidid's commander.

"His ties to the Corps would ultimately win out," said James Neal, who spent long days with him in a Marine Humvee and long nights with him drinking, laughing and dining out.

As Mr. Aidid put it, "Once a Marine, always a Marine."

Whatever his motives, Mr. Aidid's life bridges the two nations like no other: a dizzying trajectory from a civil engineer in the tree-lined refuge of southern California's suburbs to a warlord.

He joined the Marines in 1987 and became a U.S. citizen four years later because it was a prerequisite to becoming an officer. His commanders helped him rush through the swearing-in before he shipped out to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was on Gulf War alert for months.

Mr. Aidid never became an officer, but he stuck with the Corps. He was happy to join the initial Somalia mission in January 1993 and immediately forthcoming about who his father was. At the time, he went by his grandfather's name, Farrah, a Somali tradition.

"I was looking at a young corporal who wanted to do good things for his native country," recalled Gen. Johnston, who chose Mr. Aidid for the mission because he was the only Marine who spoke Somali.

Mr. Aidid stayed three weeks, until Somali interpreters recruited from U.S. colleges arrived. This was before U.S. forces' relations with his father deteriorated into warfare.

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